TBI raid targets stores selling synthetic drugs - WKRN News 2

TBI raid targets stores selling synthetic drugs

Posted: Updated: Sep 7, 2011 5:58 PM CDT

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday, along with federal, state and local agencies, raided three dozen stores in Rutherford County that sold synthetic drugs to undercover officers.

As part of Operation Synful Smoke, between June and August, the TBI sent undercover agents into the markets to purchase the synthetic drugs, such as Molly's Plant Food and bath salts, at the request of the district attorney's office.

According to a news release from TBI spokesperson Kristin Helm, during that time, agents made approximately 150 undercover visits to more than 60 convenience stores and purchased illegal drugs both over the counter and behind the counter.

The drugs purchased were synthetic cannabinoids known by several names including "Herbal Incense" or "Potpourri" and synthetic methcathinone known as "Bath Salts" or "Plant Food."

"The warning labels that read 'Not for Human Consumption' are simply a ploy to try and get around the law.  That will not work in Tennessee," TBI Director Mark Gwyn said in a release.

Gwyn continued, "Not only are they getting high but we are seeing an increase in the violence in the people using these drugs, they are hallucinating and causing a lot of problems for law enforcement and the community."

In total, 36 stores were raided Wednesday including eight in LaVergne, five in Smyrna, 18 in Murfreesboro and five elsewhere in the county.

A warehouse in south Nashville believed to be supplying the drugs was also raided as part of the operation.

Metro police spokesperson Don Aaron said officers were removing the drugs from the warehouse, located at 607 Lafayette Street, Wednesday afternoon.

Synthetic canabinoids, outlawed in Tennessee on July 1, are dried plant materials treated with chemicals sold under various brand names such as 7H, K2, Diablo, Exotica or Spice.

Abusers smoke the product to experience effects similar to those induced by marijuana.

Synthetic methcathinone is a central nervous stimulant similar to a Schedule I Controlled Substance sold in powder, liquid and crystal forms as plant food, insect repellant, pond cleaner and vacuum freshener.

Abusers typically ingest, inhale, inject or smoke the product to experience an effect similar to amphetamines.  The drug was banned in Tennessee on May 5.

Doctors warn both drugs can cause severe physical and psychological reactions and even death.

After the new laws went into effect, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper warned legitimate businesses to pull the products from their shelves.

"The attorney general's office is pleased to be part of the effort to get these dangerous substances off store shelves," he said.  "The Law Enforcement Division is working closely with local law enforcement, the District Attorney and the TBI in a coordinated effort to identify the illegal substances and halt their sale."

Gwyn told Nashville's News 2 the operation on Wednesday served as a warning to other store who may still be selling the synthetic drugs.

"So this operation is also a message to other establishments out there throughout the state that are still selling these drugs, you either take the drugs off the shelves voluntarily or we will come get them for you and when we do there is going to be consequences to the fact that you are still selling them," he said.

Gwyn continued, "I can almost promise you this will not be the last operation unless these establishments understand that we are not going to sit back and let them sell these drugs, many to young people for abuse. So we are trying to get that message out and we are sending a pretty clear message I think."

No arrests have been made as the investigation is ongoing.

Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the TBI will turn its findings over to the attorney general's office for prosecution.

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